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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

“Big Fish”

Everybody can name that one person in their life that always tells the same stories and the same jokes over and over again. For Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) that person is his father. In different stages of his life, father Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) had always entertained his son with tales of his wild youth. From stories of giant catfish to swamp witches, the elder Bloom had a story for every occasion. After hearing the same stories repeatedly throughout his childhood, Will Bloom becomes jaded with his father’s penchant for tall tales. Distancing himself from his father, he starts a family of his own.
When Will learns his father is dying, he rushes to his bedside in a desperate attempt to learn the true identity of the father behind all the big fish stories.
The film frequently dives into flashbacks of young Edward (Ewan McGregor) experiencing the misadventures that will one day constitute the stories of his life. From having a brief stint in the circus working for Ringmaster Amos (Danny DeVito) to fighting as a soldier in the Korean War and encountering conjoined twin performers Ping and Jing (Ada and Arlene Tai) to name a couple, the elder Bloom has led a full life. Filmed with a whimsical nature reminiscent of urban fairy tales, Bloom’s fantasies are wonderfully enjoyable.
With “Big Fish” director Tim Burton climbs a new and exciting plateau in film making, utilizing his trademark style of gothic suburbanism to bring to life Daniel Wallace’s debut novel.
Edward Bloom travels through a haunted forest where the trees come to life and attack him. A giant of a man lives in a cave and eats sheep. Scenes like this are ripe with Burton-esque imagery, but as a whole, the movie is an entirely different animal than Burton’s past films where over-the-top antics reigned king. Quiet scenes of human drama between father and son manage to co-exist with werewolves and other fantastic creatures in an emotional roller coaster of a film. Incredibly well-designed scenery and Burton’s high level of talent behind the camera help create a film that is always attractive to the eye, but Burton has matured as a filmmaker to the point where he can easily switch tones from zany to somber in a heartbeat.
Finney and Crudup excel as a father and son who have grown apart physically, but emotionally are tied together tighter than a fisherman’s knot. Crudup’s performance as a man in desperate need to finally meet the true man behind his father is sure to bring much deserved attention to the previously underrated actor. There is something about McGregor’s youthful portrayal of the elder Bloom that audiences will find they can’t help but like. The charismatic performance and earnest musings about life and love project an aura of sincerity that helps to enhance the credibility of Edward Bloom’s stories. Jessica Lange and Allison Lohman play Bloom’s one true love Sandra Bloom at different periods in her life. Helena Bonham Carter does double duty in the film as both the swamp witch and a lovelorn girl with a crush on Bloom. Steve Buscemi plays a quirky character Bloom encounters several times in his adventures. Fans of Buscemi’s earlier roles will be treated to dej? vu when Buscemi’s character robs a bank in a scene right out of “Reservoir Dogs.”
Adding to the movie’s magical aura is the masterful work by composer Danny Elfman. Elfman’s haunting medleys help bring a sense of fantasy to the Bloom’s crazy stories. In fact, the film’s biggest weak spots occur when the music switches from Elfman’s score to cliched songs pulled from the vaults of overused movie songs.
When it can be said that the movie’s weakest link occurs with its choice of background songs, audiences can rest assured that they are in for a treat with Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.” While “The Lord of the Rings'” cinematic finale cleans up the box office, audiences would be well advised to give a slightly different fantasy film a chance and watch a “Big Fish.

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